|Sendatsu (Veteran Pilgrim Guides)||by Hiroshi Kushima|
(translated by David C. Moreton)
In order to safely complete the pilgrimage during the time when such things as maps, guidebooks and public transportation were not available, it was necessary to walk with a guide who was an experienced pilgrim. This person is part of the systemized 'Sendatsu system.' Today, it is common for walking pilgrims to walk carrying information obtained from such sources as guidebooks, so it seems prevalent for group pilgrims traveling by bus or car and going to the 88-templess to be guided by a sendatsu.
When a sendatsu accompanies you, one will receive detailed instruction on how to worship at the temple and how to say the sutras. As well, one will be able to hear of various interesting stories while traveling between the temples. There are many ways to be a pilgrim and although there is no fixed rule to do the pilgrimage, in order not to become a self-righteous pilgrim perhaps it would be beneficial to experience once being a pilgrim under the direction of a sendatsu.
The system as prescribed by the Shikoku Hachijuhachikasho Reijokai (Association of 88 temples) is as follows
Rank Requirements Genro Dai Sendatsu Be a temple Abbot. Limit 5. At present, 0 Tikunin Dau Sendatsu Be recommended by a Daisendatsu. Be approved by all 4 sections. Limit* 10 Dai Sendatsu Have been a Tokunin Daisendatsu for more than 3 years. Have completed the pilgrimage more than 3 times. Be a person strong in faith. Gon Dai Sendatsu Have been a Nakasendatsu for more than three years. Have completed the pilgrimage more than three times. Be a person strong in faith. Chusendatsu Have been a Kenchu Sendatsu for more than two years. Have completed the pilgrimage more than two times. Be strongly devoted to the faith in Kobo Daishi Gon Chusendatsu Have been a sendatsu for more than two year. Have Completed the pilgrimage more than two times. Have a strong Devotion to the faith in Kobo Daishi Sendatsu Have completed the pilgrimage more than 4 times. Be someone with a lot of experience in leading pilgrims.
As of, December 1998, there are approximately official 7,000 sendatsu.
In order to become a sendatsu, it is a rule for a temple to watch the actions of the potential candidate and recommend that person to each regional group of Sacred Sites. Next, that group will send a recommendation to the Reijokai and a decision will be made at the Sendatsu Decision Committee meeting. If a candidate is accepted, an 'official decision' letter will be sent, and after that person is accepted at the Sendatsu Training Session held in December each year at Zentsuji, that person will be 'officially authorized' as a sendatsu.
Addition Sept. 24, 2001.
Refer to this website for the application procedure of sendatsu qualification.
This is a recent graph listing the numbers of newly appointed sendatsu.
year appointed 1997 372 1998 348 1999 364 2000 433 2001 455
2001/9/24 added 2002/1/12 added
When one is appointed as a sendatsu, one will receive a red staff (see picture) from the Reijokai.
When I walked the route in Tokushima prefecture in January, 2001, I met a 70-year old healthy man who told me that "the present numbers of sendatsu are progressively getting older in age, so the overall number is dropping. In actuality anyone who has made several pilgrimages can become a sendatsu. However, moving up the ranks is something different."
As well, a couple who are in their 60s with whom I stayed with at the same minshuku act as sendatsu and guide pilgrims by their car through the year. The husband said, "I walked the pilgrimage fifty years ago" and he told me of the fond memories he had of that time as a young walking pilgrim.
A friend of my wife has been accompanied by a sendatsu who has done the pilgrimage several times and now, seems to accompany people others around Shikoku having been asked by people who cannot do the pilgrimage by a bus tour because of old age. It seems she says, "I donft need money." I am not sure whether or not one can work being a sendatsu, but it can be considered one way of living while continuously giving thanks to Oshikoku (Shikoku pilgrims).
(translated by David C. Moreton)
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